Oct 8, 2015

First steps down the US path? Crime and punishment in Australia

A surge in imprisonment levels in Australia has accompanied a fall in many violent crimes -- but is there a link and when do we reach the point of diminishing returns?

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Harsher prison sentences have meant Australia is jailing more people than at any time in the last two decades -- while rates for most violent crimes continue to fall. What's the connection? Corrective services data recently released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the number of people in prison on an average day in Australia was over 36,000 in June this year -- the highest number since the ABS began collecting imprisonment data in 1998, and the highest imprisonment rate ever as well: 196.5 Australians per 100,000 adult population.

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5 thoughts on “First steps down the US path? Crime and punishment in Australia

  1. AR

    The problem of unreformed offenders being released after completion of their sentences seems to have been solved in the US if the recent ABC2 prog on the regime of solitary confinement is any indication.
    The inhumane strictures add to the length of their incarceration such than one had a 7 year sentenced aggregate to 119.
    Nothing whatsoever to do with private enterprise being heavily involved.

  2. Matters Peter

    The current effect of criminal court procedure is to perpetuate crime and the effect of prisons is to perpetuate criminals – both to the serious detriment of the tax payer as well the community as a whole.
    The infinitely better and cheaper options of prevention is not popular with government – court action and prisons makes it look that government ‘is doing something’. Similarly, the press loves crime.

  3. Adrian

    The privatisation/corporatization of the prison system has a lot to do with increased incarceration rates particularly of non-violent crimes (they’re easier and cheaper to look after). It also means that private prisons are not interested in effective methods to reduce recidivism as they’d love to have the prisoner back. Once privatised these large companies can run advertising and lobby government/political parties to ensure that there are mandatory prison sentences, three strike rules and an interest in the community to “get tough on crime”. It’s also handy lobby to get rid of half-way houses, mental health care and criminalise minor offences as ways of keeping your prisons full, or even better, get funding to help you build more. A civilised society should never outsource prisons.

  4. AR

    Adrian – too true that a “civilised society should never outsource prisons.“, hence their ubiquity in the Benighted States and also beginning to flourish in the UK under the tory party.

  5. ken svay

    It’s a complex issue but in the US ridiculous drug laws and lobbying by private operators has meant that the prison business is a winner.

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